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Handle Difficult Inner States with "Notice, Name, Normalize" – Nerdful Mind #98

November 28, 2021 by Simon Mannes

Difficult inner states (DIS) are normal.

When a deadline is coming up and I'm behind the schedule, I feel stressed. Other times I feel angry about a comment someone made (which they probably didn't even think about that much).

Sometimes DIS are easy to find. If I get angry after reading a social media post, I know it's time to close the app and take a deep breath. Other times, DIS are more challenging. They can sneak up and stay in the background.

These feelings can persist for hours or days on a subtle level and affect my minute-to-minute mood and behavior.

“Notice, Name, Normalize” is a great technique to find these DIS and let them go. It works like this:


You begin by noticing your DIS. Do a body scan or a quick breathing exercise to notice your mental and physical feelings. If the DIS has been with you for longer than a few minutes, you can further explore it by writing about it. Which thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and behaviors does it create?


Next up, you need to name it. It's enough to think “I'm experiencing a difficult inner state”. Acknowledge its presence without judgement.

If you find yourself judging anything you feel (even the fact that you have a DIS), remember that self-criticism is also a DIS and name it: “oh, there's the critic”. Simply acknowledging you are in judgement mode eases it significantly.


Finally, acknowledge that DIS are part of being human. You can help to normalize your experience:

  • Imagine talking to a good friend who experiences the feelings you have.
  • Ask yourself if this DIS is helpful right now. If not, what would be helpful?
  • Imagine how many people feel a DIS similar to you right now. You are not alone in the way you feel.
"Things are as bad and as good as they seem. There’s no need to add anything extra." — Pema Chödrön.

Try this technique out and let me know how it went!

Thanks to Dr. Jason Spendelow for inspiration. Check out his blog!

Reading Recommendations

I Feel…Name it to Tame it.

“Emotions are an essential part of who we are, but they can be messy, complicated, and downright confusing sometimes. Knowing how to name them and talk about them with your students (and yourself!) — is a key part of helping your students develop their social and emotional health. But why do we need to name them?!”

10 Best Psychology Books

“Every few years I update my list of favorite psychology books, and it’s that time again. It turns out that this is my most popular blog post. So here’s my latest list. Let me know if you have some favorites that you think should have made it on my list but didn’t.”

Autonomous testing of services at scale - Engineering at Meta

“Enabling developers to prototype, test, and iterate on new features quickly is important to Facebook’s success. To do this effectively, it’s key to have a stable infrastructure that doesn’t introduce unnecessary friction. This gets significantly more challenging when the infrastructure in question must also scale to support more than 3 billion people around the world, leverage an increasing amount of computational power, and handle an extremely large and growing codebase.”

Weekly Mindfulness Practice

Look around to find something you own that you use very often.

This can be your desk, headphones, or a kitchen knife.

Take a closer look.

How have you changed this item by using it?

I own a small table pad which I'm using in the kitchen and it has changed so much over the years. So many cuts and stains. It's a little worn out. But it still does its job.

I find it amazing that each small cut, each stain, each sign of usage is one action I have done in the past.

End Note

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Have a great week


PS: What do you think about this? Please hit reply and let me know. I’m curious!

PPS: This technique is similar to RAIN, which we talked about here before. But different models resonate with different people, so I hope you find this useful!